Recently I’ve been asking myself a simple question which has helped transform my daily outlook: ‘What’s your biggest problem?’
I’m human just like you. That means that some days I wake up feeling lethargic, apathetic, and world-weary. Life ebbs and flows; some days I feel like a rock star, other days like a turtle.
But I still have to get through the day and—at least try to—crush it. We can’t drift through life basing our actions on our feelings because they’re so wishy-washy. I believe that to truly live life to the fullest, we have to engineer our days.
On days when I’m not feeling my best, my personal tendency (which is a delusion really) is to see the glass half empty.
Here’s the problem: when we’re surrounded by miracles every day, they begin to seem normal.
Luxuries such as clean water, electricity, and the internet are taken for granted; our attention is fixated on dumb shit like hitting too many traffic lights on the way to Whole Foods to buy a $9.00 juice drink or the barista not making our coffee hot enough.
Lately I’ve been working through a really practical exercise that helps put things into perspective for me. I’ve created this application out of pure necessity because, otherwise, my mind will literally gloss over the positive and fixate on the negative.
At first I was embarrassed by this tendency toward negativity, and then I realized it’s probably just built into our outdated biology: we survived as a species by looking for problems and overlooking the good. We needed this trait to evolve as humans: if we weren’t fixated on the problems and inefficiencies in life, the Saber-Tooth Tiger would have us for lunch.
So in an effort to reprogram my hardwiring, I consciously go through an exercise which helps instill gratitude into my daily life.
I begin by asking a simple question: “What’s the biggest problem in Alec Torelli’s life, right now?”
(I ask it in the third person, because it maintains objectivity.)
Gratitude comes in phases.
The first sign that I’m doing just fine comes immediately, because the truth is this question is quite a difficult one to answer. In fact, most things I think about on a daily basis would be embarrassing to list on paper: my marketing campaign not converting the numbers as high as I hoped, misreading the situation in a hand of poker, or where I’m going to take my next vacation.
Come to think of it, the things which I’m typically most concerned about really aren’t problems at all. If you really want to be philosophical, one could easily argue as Richard Branson does, that the only problem we really have in life is our health.
As I ponder this question a bit further, things seem to lighten up. I notice myself feeling grateful again for the simple things: that I can drink a hot cup of tea, stretch because I feel like it, or share content with the world because we live in the greatest epoch in history.
Finally, I come to my honest answer. If I had to truly admit what’s the most disconcerting thing in my life, right now, it’s that I’m not in the shape I know I’m capable of being. I weigh 170 while my ideal weight is 155.
I’m well aware that this is a complete joke of a problem. And that awareness makes me feel an immediate pulse of gratitude for how truly lucky I am that my biggest problem isn’t actually a problem at all.
And instead of feeling embarrassed for how truly lucky we are we can channel that energy into gratitude and inspiration for our day.
I often come up short, but I strive to take this awareness with me throughout my days when the inevitable stresses of life come my way. And if Whole Foods runs out of organic ginger the next time I order a fresh green juice; hopefully, this little exercise will help keep shit in perspective.
What’s your biggest problem?